By Miles Montgomery
As I pulled up to the curb in front of the Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in downtown Denver last Saturday night, I could already tell getting into the venue was going to be an adventure in and of itself. A large line had formed under the venue’s two marquee boards at 7:30 p.m., half an hour before doors were scheduled to open, announcing the night’s entertainment: the Grammy award winning owner of “The Box,” the No. 1 song on the Billboard Top 100: Roddy Ricch.
As the line snaked around the corner of Welton Street, a stream of young people of all races were sharing an electric sense of palpable excitement, in spite of the 20-degree bite of Colorado winter. A concertgoer remarked that he had never seen such a long line for a concert at the Ballroom, a venue that supposedly has a maximum capacity of 1,000. As we slowly funneled into the venue, the weight of anticipation hung heavily in the air. Denver was the last stop on The Anti-Social Tour, celebrating the release of Roddy Ricch’s debut studio album, “Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial”, which debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart.
After the viral No. 1 success of the worldwide hit, “The Box,” and other hits such as “Ballin,” “Bacc Seat,” and a Grammy-award winning feature on Nipsey Hussle’s track “Racks in the Middle,” Roddy Ricch has become a ubiquitous up-and-coming presence in the rap game and the music industry as a whole.
Born Rodrick Wayne Moore Jr. in Compton, California, Roddy Ricch generated critical and industry acclaim with his first mixtape, “Feed Tha Streets”, released in November 2017. He cemented his place in rap’s pantheon with a follow up mixtape a year later, “Feed Tha Streets II”, a poignant reflection of the challenges of his upbringing melded into melodical anthems, filled with typical braggadocio. “Feed Tha Streets II” reached No. 67 on the Billboard 200 chart, and spawned hit singles like “Every Season” and “Die Young,” a deeply personal ballad about Ricch’s fear of death, a theme that seems to lurk around every corner of his existence.
Growing up as a member of the Neighborhood Compton Crips, Roddy Ricch is no stranger to loss. In 2018, after the release of “Die Young,” he lost his best friend to a high-speed chase, and found himself caught between celebrating the release of his hit single and mourning the loss of his closest confidant, a heartbreaking contrast that bleeds into his musical creation, enabling Roddy Ricch to seamlessly segue between crooning about the caramel seats of his newest luxury vehicle and heart wrenching tales of the pain that comes with the streets.
It is this unique talent that drew my fellow concertgoers and me to pack ourselves into a venue that seemed more suited for a high school dance, complete with green and pink strobe lights. Although the tour was scheduled before the booming success of “Please Excuse Me for Being Anti-Social”, I couldn’t help but feel the venue was beneath the prodigious talent of the burgeoning superstar. However, I certainly couldn’t complain about the close proximity to the stage and I settled into a comfortable position posted against the wall of the DJ booth in the center of the floor. The floor quickly filled up as the late arrivers filed in, and the balcony that surrounded the general admission floor teemed with older concertgoers who perhaps sought to temporarily avoid the marijuana cloud that was quickly forming above the dance floor.
At about 9 p.m., the opener, fellow Compton artist Cuuhraig, appeared on stage and entertained the crowd with four suavely performed songs, one of which I vaguely recognized, but couldn’t put a name to. The 40-minute performance was followed by a banging set from the in-house DJ, further invigorating the crowd with hits like King Von’s “Crazy Story” and Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like.” Chants of “Roddy, Roddy” echoed around the building, and the crowd’s anticipation seemed to explode through the roof.
Finally, at around 10:40 p.m., the lights dimmed, and a loud roar rang around the tiny ballroom. The soft beginning piano notes from the album’s aptly named introductory song, “Intro,” seemed to encapsulate the room, and Roddy Ricch sauntered onto the security fence and surveillance camera decorated stage, clad in a black puffy jacket, red Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan jersey, sunglasses, black jeans and a red Mike Amiri cap that perfectly accentuated the fit. “Denver!” he yelled, sending a ripple through the thick hundred-thousand-dollar layers of diamond-encrusted chains that sat atop his chest.
Roddy wasted no time sending the crowd into a fervor, and immediately queued up the main attraction. The unmistakable “Eeee urrr” windshield wiper ad-lib elicited the loudest roar of the night, and he launched into an explosively energetic performance of “The Box,” with almost every member of the crowd voraciously singing back.
“Die Young” was a worthy follow-up. “Tell me why the legends always gotta die quick,” crooned Roddy with his signature melodic grit, as the crowd swayed. I found myself singing almost every word, caught up in the infectious energy of the young crowd, and perhaps a couple vodka Red Bulls. “Every Season” created the first, but certainly not the last mosh pit of the night, bodies banging viciously in the center of the floor, and $8 drinks being thrown in the air with the gusto of a graduation.
As Roddy moved through his set, performing hits like “Down Below,” “Start Wit Me,” his collaboration with Atlanta superstar Gunna, and “Bacc Seat”, featuring acclaimed R&B singer and fellow Los Angeles native, Ty Dolla $ign, I couldn’t help but note the sheer assurance with which Roddy Ricch performed, a maturity that belies his 21 years. He commanded the stage, bending the lights and smoke effects to his whim, and finding the perfect seams for the crowd to interject with acapella renditions, a performative skill some artists never truly master, and a hallmark of the best live performers.
Roddy Ricch certainly did not shy away from his more reflective and emotional works in the wake of his energetic anthems, performing his moving tribute to his late best friend, “Ricch Forever,” and “Prayers to the Trap God,” a portrayal of Roddy’s previous experience, cooking and selling drugs, as well as ducking opposition and the ever present police. “Long live Nipsey Hussle, a real legend!” he yelled, before performing “Racks in the Middle”, a tribute to a close friend and collaborator, Nipsey Hussle, the Crenshaw and West Coast legend who was murdered last year. The crowd dutifully sung every word, honoring a true legend of West Coast rap.
As the set neared its end, with “War Baby” creating an incredible, gospel-like clap and acapella chorus amongst the crowd, and “Ballin” turning the dance floor into a rave-like mosh pit, there was only one way Roddy could cap an incredible night. After thanking the crowd, and stepping off the stage, a raucous chorus of encore rippled across the venue, prompting Roddy to yell, “Alright, y’all wanna hear it one more time?”
As the crowd roared, myself included, the introductory tune of “The Box,” “Eeee urrr,” once again reverberated throughout every speaker in the building, and Roddy jumped wildly across the stage, yelling “Pullin’ out the coupe at the lot, Told ‘em ‘Fuck 12, fuck SWAT,’” sending the crowd into one final joyous conniption, providing a grandstand finish for the most enjoyable concert I have attended in years.